Program Evaluation: SPECTRUM Social Stories Project, San Diego Natural History Museum, 2016-17
The San Diego Natural History Museum contracted RK&A to conduct an evaluation of the SPECTRUM Social Stories Project. The program involved a series of 16 “meetups” for museum staff and young adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to visit seven Balboa Park museums. The young adults, with support from museum staff, used their observations of those spaces to create pre-visit materials for museum-goers with ASD.
How did we approach this study?
The evaluation explored outcomes for young adult participants, museum staff, and project partners from other Balboa Park museums. We conducted in-depth, naturalistic observations of three meetups; individual interviews with a few participants; and interviews with museum staff and partners. We also developed feedback worksheets, both to share interim findings and to collect a second round of participant feedback before the program finished.
What did we learn?
The evaluation findings include a summary discussion to share the findings we consider most salient to learning in the museum field. These include that the staff’s attention to participant’s individual personalities and needs (including sensory processing differences), and their ever-developing understanding of ASD, supported participants to complete project work and connect with peers. We observed participants across the programs become increasingly comfortable communicating among themselves and working on the project without prompting or facilitation by program staff. After spending time with the young adults, staff deepened their understanding of autism as a spectrum and expressed interest in applying their new knowledge.